Perspective: Unlearning and Outgrowing – A Step 10 Reflection

by Kathryn E.

There is an old Zen proverb which says, “The only way through the pain is through the pain.” In other words, if I want to break free from the subtle yet shrewd chains of my addiction and all the ugly old ways that go with it, at some point I’m going to have to face the music. Say goodbye to the quintessential escape artist percolating deep within the recesses of my stubborn mind. In a nutshell, this is what Step 10 offers me – a way out of the unbearable clutches of defeat cleverly disguised as pride.

When I make a simple yet courageous attempt to do a regular self-check or personal inventory and admit mistakes as soon as they surface, I am practicing honesty. And honesty means acceptance about my own addictedness, even if it includes my lack of desire to be free. By engaging in Step 10 work, I slowly become unbound every time I take concrete action toward recovering the truth about myself. In turn, I experience healing and encounter a whole new level of spiritual awareness.

Step 10 means seeking an honourable way to give myself hope and some form of relief. By clearing away the wreckage of my past, the pathway is clear for me to pursue my true calling: a decent life, not a destructive one. So in essence, these microcosmic lessons in humility are not intended to humiliate me. Instead they serve as a safety net for caged animals like me, alcoholics and addicts who crave genuine freedom from the grind of addiction, but who are still conditioned to sometimes miss the cage.

In order to regain control of my life, I need to have a mature recovery program. This means I have to unlearn and outgrow a lot of the dangerous habits and thinking I stockpiled while living under the siege of sedation … or as I saw it, “floating two feet above reality.” Step 10 reminds me that I am meant to find myself, even when it hurts, and especially when society tempts me to ignore or deny the pain caused by my addiction.

Facing the truth about myself, including my wrongful actions, is never an easy feat. Whether or not I’m willing to do whatever it takes, put my pride aside and be ready to open my mind to a new way of seeing and being, will determine the quality of my life in recovery. As writer Kathleen Norris describes it in her book Amazing Grace:

We know that marriages, families [and] communities often come together and discover their true strength when some apocalypse – some new revelation of the fault lines in our lives – has occurred. For some reason we human beings seem to learn best how to love [and heal] when we’re a bit broken, when our plans fall apart, when our myths of self-sufficiency and goodness and safety are shattered.

Interestingly, the word “apocalypse” comes from the Greek root for “uncovering” or “revealing,” which to me implies paying closer attention to the hidden aspects of my life. In like manner, the Latin word for “personal” means “mask.” Taking into account the meaning behind these words, Step 10 shows me how to put my broken life back together again in good old-fashioned Humpty Dumpty style once all my delusions are shattered. By uncovering the mask of my addictive ways and naming them for what they truly are, I am exposing the lies which have for too long enslaved me and determined who I am.

But that was then. This is now. Today I willingly embrace Love’s invitation to wholeness under the wise direction outlined in Step 10, promising a new world of possibilities.

About the Authors

Renascent Alumni
Members of Renascent's alumni community carry the message by sharing their experiences and perspectives on addiction and recovery. To contribute your alumni perspective, please email